Welcome to the Alternative Break Section of the University of Maryland Hillel Blog! Our students wrote blog entries about our experiences over the week from each of our trip locations. To view the blog entries from a particular trip, please click on the trip destination in the category section to the right.
When do we grow up? That is similar to asking when our day begins; does it start when we arrive at our destination, during our journey, when we wake up, or possibly long before we ever knew it would come? Growing up is a state of mind – one that we embody based on societal pressures, our relationships with other people, or the circumstances that we are handed in this everlasting journey. We feel compelled to move onto this next level of our life, one defined by “grown up” activities, but we never stop and actually smell the coffee that everyone is drinking. But when the cards are not in our favor – and eventually when it is time to meet our maker – we decide that it is appropriate to celebrate and enjoy what we are given on a daily basis. But why wait? There is no time like the present, and it is indeed a gift. Adulthood is not an inevitable part of our lives, it is a mere construction that we have stuck with for way too long. Being a kid is our most natural form, one filled with affluence, beauty, excitement, and pure joy, and we must let these virtues enter our lives. Be conscious of happiness and you will flow along with the world, like a rock in a stream.
This week is focused on an environment of absolute bliss – to pay attention to the celebrations of life rather than its tribulations, and suddenly the tribulations do not seem so horrible after all. And in order to do that, we must become kids again, growing backwards to reclaim the wonderful world we all share.
smiling now and excited for tomorrow,
the kids of forest view lane
Today we got off to an early start so we could make the 5 hour (ish) trek to Camp in Chiplun. We got to check out some great views along the way as we left the busy city and drove through villages and smaller towns. Whether it was the crazy organized (debatable) chaos of Indian traffic, the random fruit vendors and people, or the large assortment of monkeys, cows, chickens, and dogs on the side of the road, there was never a dull moment when looking out the window! After the 5 (give or take 3 hours) bus ride we pulled up to Camp to be pleasantly surprised that this year Camp is being held at a hotel called Hotel Shalom! We are here for a 4 day semi annual retreat with some of the Jewish youth from India. There are about 50 of us in all and we are already having a great time getting to know each other.
As we got off the bus we felt like celebrities because this small village rarely hosts Western visitors and pictures with us were in high demand…we obviously loved the attention! We went to a museum and park, and returned for dinner, reflection, and a brief trivia game testing our combined knowledge of India, America, and Israel. Aside from our extreme jet lag we are feeling great and excited about the next few days at “Camp”. Tomorrow we head to a beach and into our Shabbat celebration. Got to get to bed so we can tap into all that pent up Maryland energy….goodnight mom and dad! Love, your little Terps
After arriving at Shalom Hotel we took a drive to the Indian Ocean. Stretching our legs and playing in the ocean was just what we needed! Seeing the countryside during the ride was beautiful.
After many preconceived notions about what Shabbat would be in India we came to find many similarities and some cool new traditions we are excited to bring home. The service was led by the Indian and American community switching off prayers and tunes. After services we moved into a delicious dinner that was ran by some traditions led by the Indian community such as a prayer said before the hamotzi, it’s the prayer that we say in our Shabbat service but they say it as they bless the bread. Although Kiddush was very similar the taste of the wine was special, they have a 2000 year old tradition of making their wine from raisins, making it much sweeter than our wine. Many Indian Jewish families still make this wine in their homes. They squeeze the raisins with their hands…not their feet, that would be disrespectful to the food. We hope to have some event at home trying to replicate this non-manischevitz experience. On Saturday we had many learning break out sessions, from learning Hindi or Parsha to improve. Together we had a Love and Marriage session realizing a lot of similarities and differences. It brought up how teenagers are teenagers no matter where they are and Jews all over have similar pressures from their Jewish parents, some more strict than others.
Ending Shabbat with the Havdalah service was beautiful. Indians and Americans stood arm in arm and sang together ending the night on he rooftop with more conversations that sparked earlier.
Sunday we headed to Alibag where we had lunch and saw the Arabian Sea. Next we visited the gravesite where the seven original Jewish families are buried. They were merchants that were shipwrecked and landed here in Alibag where they started the Jewish community that still exists today. Seeing graves with both Hebrew and Hindi writing was interesting. We spent the evening at a synagogues 100th anniversary. Walking to the ceremony we passed small village homes with mezuzot from past communities. It was so neat to see Jews from Israel, America and all over the world to celebrate this momentous occasion. Malida was given to us, a traditional celebratory dessert, with each food representing a different blessing. Malida is used for many celebrations. We ended up leaving early since the celebration started at 4 and was probably going to continue until midnight, where dinner was to be served after. After eating we headed to Shalom Hotel #2 which is serene and lovely.
Today we are visiting a synagogue where it is thought that any wish you make there comes true. We will be visiting an old age home where we will eat dinner with them after spending some time with them. Old age homes are very rare in India, most elderly live with their families. The Jewish community recognized there were some elders without family and care and decided this was a worthwhile investment.